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Schools eye major projects, modernizations with upcoming Proposition 13 vote

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If proposition 13 passes in March, several local schools will be pursuing construction and modernization projects.

Local school districts have plenty of ideas to improve their campuses and students' education, but oftentimes that comes with a hefty price tag.

Those ideas could come to fruition, however, with a statewide school construction bond measure that California voters will decide on during the March primary.

If passed, proposition 13 authorizes $15 billion in general obligation bonds for school and college facilities, including $9 billion for preschool and K-12 schools, $4 billion for universities and $2 billion for community colleges.

Several factors would be considered when determining which modernization and construction projects to prioritize. They include: projects to address earthquake risks; districts with financial hardships, as defined in law; grants requested for remediation of lead in water; the order of the applications that were submitted but not reviewed during the two prior quarters; severe overcrowding, as defined in law; and computation scores based on a district's tax base and percentage of English learners, students eligible for free or reduced-price meals and foster youth, according to

Though districts are waiting to see if this bond will pass, many of the potential projects they'd pursue with those funds include constructing new schools and completing much-needed modernizations.

While Bakersfield City School District and Cal State Bakersfield did not wish to comment on this story, a handful of school districts and Bakersfield College shared their proposed plans if the bond does in fact pass

Greenfield Union School District

Greenfield Union School District has its mind set on building its 13th school, Crescent Elementary, through the bond measure.

Located adjacent to the upcoming Del Oro High School on Cottonwood Road and Panama Lane, Crescent Elementary would hold around 900 students in grades transitional kindergarten through fifth. The school would open in fall 2022.

An emphasis will be placed on providing and supporting special education students' needs, explained Lucas Hogue, assistant superintendent of personnel, and having those students "freely move around from a special education setting to general education setting," such as the playground.

Down the line the district plans on building a middle school next to the elementary school, but that construction will not depend on proposition 13 funds.

Additionally, GUSD will renovate classrooms and portable buildings and add air conditioning to multi-purpose rooms at Fairview Elementary, Greenfield Middle, McKee Middle, Plantation Elementary and Planz Elementary schools.

Fruitvale School District 

Fruitvale School District is currently modernizing three of its schools from a previous bond measure. If the March bond proves victorious, additional funds will allow for the continuation of some of those projects.

The district is choosing not to follow in GUSD's footsteps and build a new school mainly because it costs upwards of $20 million to $30 million, Superintendent Mary Westendorf estimates.

"If you’re going to do any other building or modernization, you have to have district money to do that, and there’s not enough for all the needs," she said.

Instead, Fruitvale is focusing on several upgrades to Columbia, Discovery and Endeavour elementary schools. Each of these schools are at least 25-years-old, and by that point a district can turn to the state to be reimbursed for projects.

Most of the modernizations have been focused on replacing carpets, putting on new coats of paint, upgrading Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and adding new security measures.

Kern High School District

Back in 2016, local voters passed Measure K, a $280 million general obligation bond dedicated to improving, constructing and rehabilitating schools and classrooms throughout the district. If proposition 13 passes, it would provide important state matching funds to complete current and future facility projects, explained Scott Cole, deputy superintendent of business.

The district is nearing completion of the Kern Aquatics Complex and the Career Technical Education Center at Independence High School, but has a slew of other projects it will pursue.

One of which is the construction of its 19th comprehensive high school, Del Oro High School, on Panama Lane and Cottonwood Road. Construction of the estimated $125 million 250,000-square-foot school is scheduled to begin this fall and is estimated to serve up to 2,500 students.

"The cost of construction has nearly doubled in the last 10 years, and we would be significantly challenged to keep our facility projects moving forward without funds from the state school facilities program," Cole explained. Del Oro High School is projected to cost twice as much as its last two schools, Mira Monte and Independence high schools.

Other projects for the district include a modernization at Foothill High School, which includes upgrades to the administration building, classroom wings, gymnasium and cafeteria; roof and interior repair work at North High School; and a classroom expansion at Frontier High School. Bakersfield High School's Warren Hall will also receive a substantial amount of interior work with some enhancements on the exterior of the building, Cole said.

Bakersfield College

When voters passed the $502.8 million Measure J bond in November 2016, Bakersfield College received $415 million for various improvement and construction projects across campus. The college has opened the Vernon Valenzuela Veterans Resource Center, the first completed Measure J project, in December 2019. 

The science and engineering building, a new three-story building that will house offices, labs and classrooms, will break ground in February, and a new campus center and gymnasium and field house are also expected to be completed this year.

If proposition 13 passes, the college will pursue smaller scale improvements to some of its 70-plus year old buildings, explained Mike Giacomini, vice president of finance and administrative services. Those include switching from single pane to double pane windows, energy efficient lighting and installing stronger electrical panels.

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

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